Reviewed by Shelly Harper
On Friday 1st June myself, my 9 year old daughter and one of my best friends visited Drayton Manor, a theme park, resort and zoo in the grounds of the former Drayton Manor near Tamworth in Staffordshire.
After a couple of hours driving we arrived at Drayton Manor around mid morning and immediately found somewhere to park so the fun could begin. The car park is situated a few minutes from the entrance of the theme park and once you get to the main entrance you are greeted by several booths where you can either buy tickets at the gate or collect pre-booked tickets. I would definitely book online before you go as it’s not only cheaper but the queues were significantly shorter.
First point of call for us once we got into Drayton Manor was somewhere to have a drink and a snack whilst we looked over the park map so we popped into Broadwalk Café where we picked up coffees for the adults and a slush puppy for the child. On the particular day that we visited, the Broadwalk Café was doing a promotion in which with each hot drink you purchased you could get a four finger Kitkat for 50p so everyone in our group was able to get a drink and a treat for less than £10.00 which I found surprisingly reasonable for an attraction like Drayton Manor.
Whilst sat outside the Broadwalk Café, the main ride we could see was the Ben 10 Ultimate mission which my daughter was apprehensive about riding as she’s really not a fan of rollercoaster’s but after a bit of convincing we finally got her into the queue. Upon going in the entrance to the ride you are plunged into darkness and via small TV’s and announcements you realise that Ben 10 needs your help to stop Vilgax from stealing the Omnitrix and the only way to do this is to board the “Mecha Vehicle.” Along the way to your “Mecha Vehicle” you get to see lots of Ben 10’s aliases and you can even catch a glimpse of some of his friends and enemies in tubes and/or lit up by strobe lights which I thought really brought the ride to life even if my daughter did have to explain it all to me.
Due to past experience of other theme parks I expected to be in the queue for this popular ride for a fairly long time but we were easily sat in our seats within 15 minutes which we all thought was impressive for such a popular ride. So after a countdown we were hoisted backwards up a hill and held there for a moment or two (Note that from the back of the ride you get some brilliant views of the park) then the rollercoaster is released so you get a sense of freefalling whilst going through the loading area and round some sharp twists and turns before going back up the hill. You then get to do the whole ride again but this time it’s backwards which did worry my daughter a little but not enough that she wouldn’t get back on the ride later in the day.
From Ben 10’s Ultimate Mission we went on to the Wild West Shoot Out in which we only had to wait a few minutes before we go into our minors cart complete with onboard pistols. All three of us thought this ride was great and took it upon ourselves to compete amongst each other to get the highest score. Points are earnt by shooting targets whilst going round the Wild West town which is complete with Saloons, Cowboys and Indians but keep your eyes peeled as there are targets hidden everywhere throughout the ride and like me, if you miss them you too will be beaten by your own child and friends.
Just across from the Wild West Shoot Out was the Apocalypse which is 54 meter high freefall tower ride which I was unable to convince my daughter and friend to go on so I took them back through to the other side of the park to Thomas Land where they both went on Cranky’s Drop Tower. This is a very similar ride to the Apocalypse but on a much smaller scale for the younger visitors to the park. On Cranky’s Drop Tower you drop and bounce from 8 meters which my daughter still wasn’t so keen on initially but with a familiar face at her side she soon began to love it and realise there was nothing to be scared of.
There are many rides in Thomas Land which as previously stated are perfect for the younger members of the family. These include a train ride on Thomas or one of his friends, a rollercoaster which goes up and over Thomas Land, Lady’s Carousel, Terence’s Driving School and Jeremy’s Flying Academy. There is also a large indoor playground called Emily’s Adventure Play which looked to be very popular on the day we visited. My daughter was maybe a little old for this area of the park but if I was taking my 2 year old niece to Drayton Manor, I think she would love Thomas Land and the rides available.
On our way through the main park from Thomas Land we spotted Pirate Adventure which we all decided to give a go and it sounded very interesting and not too scary for my daughter. When you first go through the entrance to this ride it’s a little dark but not enough to be scary and you have to make your way through to your vessel. Once you have boarded your vessel, you leave the harbour which is only lit by lamps on the walls. As this ride was a water ride I suspected we may get a little wet but the drop that you experience whilst on the ride is only small so although it makes a significant splash, you don’t really get wet at all. From here the vessel took us around the seven seas of the world which included pirate towns, torture dungeons and battle grounds. Throughout the whole ride there is something to look at to keep everyone entertained and there are added sound effects to make it all a little more realistic.
From Pirate Adventure my daughter decided she wanted to go back across the park to go on the Buffalo Coaster but along the way she got distracted by the Flying Dutchman.
The Flying Dutchman is a swing ride in which you board a suspended boat suitable for 2 people and then you are lifted into the air whilst being spun around. There are some great views of the park to be had going on this particular ride and although I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy this ride as I often feel nauseous going on rides that spin round and round, it wasn’t as bad as I thought and all of our group loved it, so much so we went on this ride several times throughout the day.
When we got off this ride I decided that it was only fair I tried out one of the bigger rides within Drayton Manor so I decided to go on Pandemonium (alone) as neither my daughter nor my friend fancied it. So off I went into the very small queue that had formed….. The wait was only a few minutes as Pandemonium can hold many riders in each Gondola and so that my daughter and friend could see me, I decided to sit at the front of the ride which is probably not the best idea if you don’t intend to feel the full force of this ride.
When Pandemonium first started it had like a pirate ship motion to it which was bearable but as the swing gets higher and faster there is enough speed for the gondolas to do a full 360 degree loop. At the peak of this ride, I was hung upside down several times for what seemed like a few minutes but in actual fact is only a few seconds and for me this was not the worst part of the ride. The worst part is swinging back down from being upside down as you get a fair G Force in your face and your stomach feels like it’s doing somersaults. Although I enjoyed this ride I was in no hurry to do it again and neither my daughter nor friend would attempt it themselves.
Finally much to my daughter’s excitement we reached the Buffalo Coaster which proved to be a very popular ride for all guests of all ages. When we first approached the rollercoaster we couldn’t see half of the track as it’s amongst trees but this just added to my daughter’s excitement so on we got, watched over by an Indian on the front of the rollercoaster. The Buffalo Coaster takes you up a slight incline before speeding through some humps, going round some bends, through the helix over the lake then back through the station to do it all again. My daughter really, really loved this rollercoaster but unfortunately due to the popularity of this ride and the length of the queue she didn’t get to go on it again that day.
After all this excitement we decided it was time for lunch which my daughter and my friend decided should be pizza so we went to Rainforest Pizza. When you enter the restaurant you are greeted by lots of model trees and animals which children can interact with if they wish. Rainforest Pizza sells pizza, pasta and a variety of hot and cold drinks so everyone is accommodated for and the pizza can either be purchased by the slice, as part of a meal deal or as a whole and pasta is sold as an adult or child portion and again on its own or as part of a meal deal. My friend and I opted for a pizza meal deal which included a slice of pizza, a portion of potato wedges and a drink and my daughter opted for a pasta meal deal which included pasta and meatballs, garlic bread and a drink. The portions were of a fair size especially the pasta and it wasn’t overpriced unlike some other well known theme park restaurants. We found the Rainforest Pizza restaurant to be exceptionally clean, well staffed and particularly convenient so definitely worth a visit.
Following lunch we all agreed it was time to try a proper water ride so we opted for Splash Canyon which is a rapids ride. The queue wasn’t as long as we expected for Splash Canyon so within about 10 minutes we were sitting in our rubber ringed tub ready to get wet. The river rapids bounced us down the wavy waterways into a central wave pool where we did get wet with all the water splashing around us but we didn’t get stuck unlike the people in the tub behind us and from there we continued to be bounced from side to side down the waterways. On the way round there are water features in which you can and probably will get wet from above like I did but its all part of the fun and it’s not like you get drenched so it was nice to get off a water ride and not be completely soaked through.
As it was a warm, sunny day we decided the best way to dry off would be to take a walk through the zoo which is situated with Drayton Manor. First stop off point in the zoo was the meerkat manor as my daughter loves them following a very popular TV advert. The meerkats had also recently had pups so she was desperate to see how cute they were and I have to say all the meerkats whether adults or pups were very cute and clearly didn’t mind playing up to the crowd.
We walked all around the zoo and my daughter enjoyed seeing the many different types of animals including chimps, penguins, ostriches, reindeer, parrots, eagles, owls, lizards, frogs, spiders, snakes and various felines including tigers. On the particular day we went we were able to catch a glimpse of all the animals including the tiger which from what I could see was a rare treat unless it was feeding time.
When I first saw Drayton Manor had a zoo I was a little sceptical as it’s not really somewhere you would expect to see a zoo but it was amazing to see so many types of animals in one place and that they aren’t all crowded together to fit them all on site.
Within the zoo there is a dino trail which was a great for me as I have a very unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs and their history. The trail is not massive but it takes you on a journey through the evolution of dinosaurs with massive dinosaur statues and information boards which tell you the name of the dinosaur, their actual size, the period in which they existed, where they existed and if they are herbivore or carnivore. I loved this part of the park and found it to be particularly educational although I’m not sure my daughter and friend were so appreciative of me dragging them round the trail.
Next I decided I wanted to see the 4D cinema as I’d only experienced a 4D cinema once previously. My daughter was apprehensive as she’s not a fan of 3D films and the added special effects of 4D cinema because she doesn’t know what to expect but my friend and I convinced her to give it a try as we would both be there with her.
The short film showing in the 4D cinema was the Little Prince and depicted the little prince visiting several asteroids, universes and planets to find his Rose. The simple story had some great effects including your seat moving when the little prince is bumped to the ground and air being blown into your face to signify the dragon’s breath. A definite must for anyone of any age especially if it something you have not experienced before.
As I had now been on the rides and visited a few of the attractions I wanted too, my daughter decided it was her turn again to decide what rides we went on next.
The Big Wheel had caught her eye earlier in the day so now she decided that’s what she wanted to go on so she could see over the entire park.
The big wheel is a slow, steady ride that provides the opportunity to relax from the hustle and bustle of the day and gives some excellent picture opportunities of the entire park. Our ride lasted approximately five minutes and during this time we did several rotations but I would note that this ride is not suitable for anyone that doesn’t like heights as it goes very high at its maximum point and if like us, you have to wait for people to get on and off, you could be stuck at the top for a good few minutes. Luckily for us we were not scared and found it to be a very pleasant ride.
From the Big Wheel my daughter decided she wanted to go on the Drayton Queen Boat. The boat took us on a pleasantly gentle ride around Drayton Manor’s lake which probably took around ten minutes but during that time we got to see the more natural side of Drayton Manor which included seeing fish, ducks and the odd coot lazing around. As with the big wheel, it was nice to get some respite from the busier side of the park going on the Drayton Queen Boat.
As it was coming to the end of the day we agreed that we would try one more of the bigger rides before we left so we opted for Stormforce 10. Looking at other people coming off this ride we were as certain as we could be that we were going to get wet but we totally underestimated how wet!!!
Stormforce 10 is a ride that recreates the story of a lifeboat rescue which was launched in association with the RNLI hence on your way to get on the ride there is lots of lifeboat memorabilia and facts, and donations can be made onsite. I also believe that for every picture purchased on Stormforce 10, a contribution is made to the RNLI.
When we first got into our “lifeboat” we believed the ride to be fairly tame, taking us up a hill with a small drop in which you get splashed but not soaked but how wrong were we? We were then taken up another hill but this time we were turned round so when we went down the next drop which was slightly bigger, we were travelling backwards. Unfortunately my daughter and I were sat right at the back and couldn’t see how big the drop was but we soon found out by the wave that got us very wet from behind. We were then turned back round to be facing forward but unfortunately this meant we knew what was coming up….. The biggest drop of them all. After a few twists and turns we were greeted by a huge, steep hill which we were pulled up slowly and steadily. At the top we went round the corner, went down a little dip then continued round the corner at a fairly slow and steady pace then there it was…… We met our biggest drop yet and so that we could fully appreciate how big it was, the boat paused at the top of the drop for a few moments before letting us freefall down the hill which included a hump in the middle for added effect. We hit the water at the bottom with such force that literally everyone in the boat was soaked through to the skin. Although my daughter was not happy about being cold and wet she did enjoy the ride and said she would do it again. I decided that as we had to leave to get in the car, getting more wet was not an option.
Overall we had a great day at Drayton Manor as there is so much to see and do for people of all ages so it makes a great family day out and the entrance fee is very reasonable as you get the theme park and zoo all included. What more could you ask for?
For more information or to book tickets visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk
If you book in advance and it rains for more than 1 hour while you are in the park they guarantee you can come back again (terms and conditions apply).